In discussion at LGM, this well-known "infographic" (a term I loathe, though not quite as much as "webinar" -- but I digress) about the highest-paid state employees was criticized for implying that big time university athletic coaches get paid directly from state tax monies.
Below the fold I'll discuss that criticism and show what is the true public support to college athletics we need to think about: it's not direct state funds paying salaries of coaches, but it does directly involve faculty labor.
Let’s take Les Miles of LSU as an example. His total annual compensation is over $4 mil, of which only $300K is base salary, and hence directly traceable to state funds. He also gets $550K from Tiger Athletic Foundation (TAF) contributions, which are Federal income tax deductible at 80% when tickets are involved (I’m not sure about state income tax deduction for TAF donations). Most of his money comes from his take of TV money, laundered through his local TV and radio gigs.
We should note that the TAF picks up the tab for the athletic scholarships plus gives back some bucks to the general university fund. You would need a good forensic accountant with open books and some time to really work out the balance sheet here, but the really important point to make here is that money-making athletics programs wouldn’t be able to stay in the college sports niche of the sports entertainment market without using the state university name. So the very existence of the university is the real public support we have to think about.
And how does a state university stay in operation? It has to have, at the minimum, faculty members who teach. So our labor is part of what allows the athletic program to operate as it does. I'm not necessarily asking for a cut of the revenue (at least not until players are able to negotiate their fair share in collective bargaining), but I do want folks to see how the system operates.
UPDATE, 10:30 am CDT, 14 Sept: I think what I'm trying to say is this: the past and present public support plus faculty and staff labor that has built a public university is a necessary condition for the present form of college athletics (creation of a "college sports" niche in the sports entertainment industry). Thus all this really *can't* be brought into the accounting of the cash flows, as it's not a component, but a condition.